An overview and strategy to completing college admissions
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By Darian Brooks

College application season can be a pretty stressful time for students and their families with all of the different deadlines, application materials, and testing necessary. Some programs and majors also have supplemental materials adding to the long list of requirements necessary for students completing the application process. For example, those students looking to apply to an Art program have to create a portfolio and/or an artist’s statement on top of the standard materials (for more on applying as an art major, click here). The following serves a brief overview of how to ensure that students complete all necessary tasks in the college application process and make it as stress free as possible.

The application process really starts rolling during the spring of junior year:

  • Taking the SAT or ACT (if the students hasn’t already)
    – Taking the tests in the fall is preferred, but if the score is unsatisfactory, it should be taken again.
  • Choosing classes for senior year (for some students)
  • Beginning to build a list of colleges
    – ThinkTank consultants are a great resource for this as they have
  • Confirming summer programs or volunteering opportunities

Following into the summer,

  • Students should have their schools narrowed down and start to create a checklist with due dates for EACH SCHOOL. Different colleges and universities may use the same application (coalition, common app, UC app), but due dates may differ for specific materials between schools. Keeping appropriate and up to date checklists for each possible school erases the “did I submit everything ?” doubt and ensures it will never come up as an issue.
  • Students should also begin to tackle the essays at this time (for information on how to approach the essays, click here). Starting way ahead of due dates gives students time to put substantial effort into each one of their applications. Admissions readers take their time reading potential students application essays, making it is easy for them to tell if a student didn’t put effort into their work.

Fall of senior year is the most rigorous, but rewarding time of the year. Dealing with a strong course load (students should not think senior year is a time to take it easy), senior projects, college applications, and senioritis (in some cases) can be overwhelming. However, the sigh of relief after sending off that last application is all worth it. At this time, students should be:

  • Putting out second and third drafts of their essays, completing the application profile accurately (nobody would want an acceptance letter sent to the wrong address)
  • Finishing all supplemental materials, and sending test scores. This is where the checklist really starts to come in handy since it is a serious bummer to forget to send test scores out on time. Students should complete all materials and be prepared to submit applications at least a week ahead of the respective deadlines. This will give students the opportunity to review all application materials two or three times and make revisions.

Senior winter and spring are the final stretch. Students should not think that just because they submitted the application that they are done with the process. Instead they should refer back to their checklists to find deadlines to submit AP and/or TOEFL scores along with OFFICIAL transcripts (this will vary so students need to refer to their checklist for the deadlines for each school). It is also necessary to check-in with each school about their application status through the individual school’s applicant portal, via email, or over the phone. Yes, the checklist tells students when things are due and when to submit, but making sure the materials are received by the school is another way to triple check the application is being completed correctly. It may seem unnecessary, however it never hurts to be thorough. If financial aid is also necessary for the student, putting financial aid deadlines on the checklist is imperative. Missing those deadlines may mean missing out on financial assistance. Checking for more outside scholarships is also encouraged (don’t miss out on free money!).

Overall, staying on top of everything makes the college application process a much less stressful and nerve-racking experience. TIme is a students greatest asset, create a checklist as early as possible and stick to it. Complete tasks well before deadlines and review them twice before submitting. Make sure all materials are received by the school and remember to thank teachers and counselors for their help, recommendation letters, etc.! Don’t forget that senior year grades and course selection matter. Finish out the year strong!